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Rather than sleep in, hundreds of educators spend Saturday mornings (7:30 EST) tweeting away on Twitter in discussions with other educators worldwide about current issues in education. The hashtag #satchat takes educators to the discussion selected for that morning. The topics are usually posted by one of the coordinators so that educators can prepare in advance for the flurry of responses they want to make for the hour of tweeting. The topic on 3/7/15 was tweeted out by
@ScottRRocco as Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today.
At 7:30 AM last Saturday, the tweet tsunami began and soon Twitter’s#satchat was trending (by the numbers: 3654 Tweets; 603 Participants; 49.2 Tweets Per Minute according to Billy Krakower
Call those engaged in this particular form of edu-communication the Coalition of the Willing. They are spread out nationwide, perhaps clustered in some geographic areas, but connected in this digital parking lot every week for the sharing of ideas with like-minded educators. At every session, and during the week, there are participants cheering #satchat as their Professional Learning Network (PLN).
These members of the Coalition of the Willing tweets out positive, occasionally fanatical, statements about the difference these virtual meetings make for them in their practice. These three samples prove such enthusiasm:
@ToddWhitakerWith Twitter the knowledge of one becomes the knowledge of all.
@GiftedBrendaStarting my morning w/ #satchat, expanding my PLN and continued growth through collaboration.
Reading tweets from the Coalition of the Willing on any Saturday, there those messages that bemoan educators are not taking advantage of social interaction and information shared on links through Twitter or any other social media. Let us call those educators the Coalition of the Unwilling. Many in this coalition are unwilling because they do not see the value of a Twitter form of professional discussion; many do not have the time to participate; many are not proficient with technology and are frustrated with their attempts to engage; many do not care. For whatever reason, and regardless of platform, there will always be a group of educators currently employed who are not independently engaged.
What can be done to change this paradigm? What about looking at the next generation of teachers?
Question #5 on this round of #satchat asked about the tools can educators can utilize to involve stakeholders in the future of education. Knowing that the Coalition of the Unwilling is already not interested (not available, not proficient, etc…), I offered the following sentiment on a tweet for Q5:
For our future, engage teacher ed programs.
A response came from William Green
And energetic new teachers often get sucked into the status quo when they enter the “real world” of schools.
That’s why we hook potential and new teachers into Twitter; It’s an inoculation against the status quo.
If educators today want collaboration and communication with the educators of tomorrow, then the Coalition of the Willing needs to collectively use social media to engage with the teacher education programs. Most new recruits in teacher ed programs are already familiar with social media, and understand how to make connections. They must be brought into the dialogues on social media platforms like Twitter in order to be inoculated against the isolation of those first years of teaching or serving as an administrator.
Every #satchat discussion is the perfect complement to teacher education and teacher preparation programs. Week to week, #satchat offers what could be considered the most authentic syllabus for a “Contemporary Issues in Education” course. And there are Twitter chats with hashtags for any other education course as well: #Engchat for English teachers, #kinderchat for Kindergarten and elementary teachers, #BYOD for schools using bring your own digital device approaches, etc.
The Twitter handle @Cybraryman1 (Jerry Blumengarten) updates a webpage with links to hundreds of hashtag links and the National Education Association offers an article “Can Tweeting Help Your Teaching?” with links to support beginners such as the Twitter Handbook for Teachers.
Targeting colleges and universities with teacher ed programs to engage with professionals on social media platforms could bring collaboration in teacher preparation in the short term which might improve teacher retention in the long run. At a minimum, professors and instructors should consider how easily participation in education chats could be used as assignments: follow students, review posted links, assessing a tweet’s 140 characters. This is more authentic, and less burdensome, than grading long papers.
At a time when professional development can be costly, there are educators with experience on education chats who are ready to lend support and guidance for free. There are educators who want to learn from each other and share what they know. They are the Coalition of the Willing, and many are already on Twitter on Saturday mornings, tweeting #satchat and trending.
Teacher educators? Please, have your students join them…they could even respond should they wake up after noon!